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This week’s best questions, ideas and debates from TED Conversations

Posted by: Aja Bogdanoff

TED-Conversation-generic-imageTED Conversations is a unique space where any member of this community can get feedback on an idea, ask a question that they just can’t get out of their mind, or start a respectful debate on an issue they hold near and dear to their heart. This week, dozens of new conversations were started — from “What does the average citizen need maths for?” to “How can overly empathetic people compete in this world?” Here, a sampling of the highlights from this week.

This week, TEDx Organizer Ellen Feig posed a thought-provoking question:  Can you teach young people to be moral? She wrote:

Currently I am working on a professional development platform focused on teaching college students ethics and morality. Young people seem to be incredibly disengaged from others, have little sense of what it means  to be moral, gracious or ethical and don’t care. How can we teach morality or is it something  that is innate?

To which Lejan responded:

Most of our fairytale culture is based on the idea of teaching moral concepts to young people, yet there is no guarantee that what is taught will be taken. A moral itself is no constant entity and is constantly changing and mixed with religious, political and social ‘belief systems’, it is a task on its own for each generation to do their best in trying to hand over what fells right for them in that moment in time.

If you, as you describe, deal with young people who already ‘don’t care’, your question is without doubt a good one! When I look at myself, I got all of my ‘moral core values’ exclusively within my family and at a very young age. And this without being directly taught, like, ‘Today my dear we will teach you about ‘lyng’, ‘stealing’ and ‘envying’ .. :o) It was the overall ‘atmosphere.’ … I personally believe that a positive childhood in love and care is the most influential factor for the development of a strong moral compass and that ‘outside’ institutions like childcare, kindergarten and schools are hopelessly over-strained to compensate for that.

With 70 comments and 12 days to go before the conversation ends, this promises to be an interesting discussion. View the full exchange » 

Meanwhile, Genevieve Tran shared an inspiring idea: Using the online community to build a collection of personal photos to capture pre-war Afghanistan. Genevieve writes:

In another TED conversation led by a young person from Afghanistan, he asked the community what we’d like to be able to see in the future. He himself has never seen peace in his country and wished to see this, above all.

This country has been put on hold for 30 years. And the younger generation in and outside of it has no memory of it, really, of being anything but a warzone, a wasteland. We have such a strong digital culture and digital memory now. Why not “create” an Afghanistan that we want? I created a page that anyone can post on — do you know of anyone who remembers a peaceful Afghanistan in this lifetime? I think it would be nice for young, Internet-connected Afghans to look at :)

Finally, member Domagoj Hackenberger sparked a thought-provoking debate: Is the total eradication of mosquitoes a true solution?  He pointed out:

Mosquitoes have a massive ecological role in nature. Especially as the main food source for great number freshwater fish and birds.

To which Kasper Mortensen responded:

The ecological aspect would seem tricky at first glance, but it really isn’t. Even with this technology available to us, humans are in no way close to becoming the ‘Banes of Mosquitoes’. In fact, our current behavior is the best thing that has ever happened to the mosquitoes; by giving them mobility to spread across the world, we have made them one of the strongest species on this planet. Mosquitoes have no natural capabilities that would allow them to spread in this way. Most mosquitoes have no business being in the Americas at all. So if we are doing anything, we are in fact correcting our previous disturbance of nature.

And also; since all males die within days, we can actively stop our ‘treatment’ at any given point. We have total control of the development, and can specify the exact number of mosquitoes world wide that we want.

This technology is literally perfect. It is for these kinds of situations that the word ‘perfect’ exists.

And check out lots more fascinating discussions and debates over at TED Conversations »